A quick Google search will reveal that the major shipping companies move about 25 million packages a day. That's 6.5 billion a year.
So it should come as no surprise that the 18 boxes that left the Noble Research Institute early this fall caught absolutely no one's attention. They were brown. They were cubes. They were typical in every way.
Even their content was fairly unremarkable. No top secret weaponry. No ill-gotten antiquities. No live animals. Just snacks, toiletries and other amusements mixed with enough packing peanuts to feed a herd of Styrofoam elephants.
No, what made these boxes remarkable were the recipients. They are heroes, and they are homesick.
This fall, members of the Noble Research Institute's Employee Team (ET) spent weeks gathering items to assemble care packages for the 158th Field Artillery Regiment of the Oklahoma Army National Guard, stationed in Afghanistan.
Decorated drop-boxes popped up in every building across campus, and employees donated items that would ultimately end up around the world.
Administrative Assistant Dorthie Kelley and Purchasing Agent Dee Mackey spearheaded the project, which represents the fifth time Noble employees have adopted a unit. "It's such a small thing," Mackey said. "It's just a way to say 'thank you'. We want to let them know that people in their home state appreciate them and that we are thinking of them."
Indeed, the ET tried to think of everything the soldiers might need or want. Kelley and Mackey ran through the list that included personal care items (deodorant, razors, shaving cream), snacks (beef jerky, crackers and cookies), entertainment (books and movies) and toys to pass out to village children. "I don't think it's what we send," Kelley said. "It's just acknowledging them and showing that we appreciate what they do. They need to know that home is still here, and we're still thinking about them."
Greg Spencer recalled the impact these cardboard treasure chests have on a unit. The former staff sergeant and current Noble Research Institute greenhouse assistant spent 17 years in the Army and National Guard, including tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. "Those care packages mean everything," he said. "They mean people are supporting you. It helps keep you going. They are a lifeline to the real world."
Months will pass before all the packages arrive; but the 18 unremarkable boxes bearing small tokens of gratitude will land at a country we can barely imagine soon enough. We pray it provides a small taste of the familiar and reminds these soldiers that we have not forgotten their sacrifice; we have not forgotten our heroes.